SCE forced to halt work on portion of Eldorado upgrade

Southern California Edison (SCE) construction crews have been forced to halt work on a section of the line near Boulder City, Nev., because several pairs of red-tailed hawks are nesting too close to the path of the Eldorado to Ivanpah transmission upgrade project.

“SCE had to put on hold construction for a portion of the fiber-optic lines [associated with the project] due to issues regarding protected species, including red-tail hawks, which were located on adjacent lines in the same transmission corridor,” SCE senior project manager Lauren Bartlett confirmed to TransmissionHub on April 17.  

SCE crews had been upgrading a 35-mile section of lines that cross public land from a single 115-kV line to a double-circuit 230-kV line. Construction was completed in 60 percent of the project area when work was halted, she said.

While a buffer zone of at least 400 feet is required when active raptor nests are found, SCE had sought a variance to work as close as 137 feet to the nests. However, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) denied the request.

“The next available window to go back to that area is in October, and SCE will follow necessary steps to get approval from the California ISO to complete the fiber-optic work,” Bartlett continued.

The line is being upgraded to connect the Ivanpah Valley solar tower project to southern California’s power grid. Developers of the solar project are confident the project will remain on track.

“The plan is on schedule, and the transmission line will be built in a way that doesn’t impact delivery per our contracts with Pacific Gas & Electric (NYSE:PCG) and Southern Californian Edison,” a spokesperson for BrightSource Energy told TransmissionHub on April 16.

The upgraded line is slated to be operational in July 2013.

This is not the first time wildlife has affected energy development in southern California. In December, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) was granted a short-term variance to work on the Sunrise Powerlink within buffer zones established to protect golden eagles during their mating season.

SDG&E completed work within weeks and crews left the area, but utility officials remain vigilant.

“We are currently monitoring over 300 active nests on the project of various species including red-tailed hawks…but at this time work is not being impaired,” an SDG&E spokesperson told TransmissionHub on April 16.

SCE is a unit of Edison International (NYSE:EIX).

SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE).

This story was updated on April 17 to include information received from SCE.